Poznan: "A major missed opportunity"
Two weeks. 8,000 participants. Endless hours of talking, close-door meetings, and too many perogies consumed to count. What did it all amount to?
For a more immediate perspective, the closing session which went on hours after midnight, governments agreed to "submit proposals" for the treaty's text before the next conference in Copenhagen and a commitment to shift into "full negotiating mode" next year.
"We will now move to the next level of negotiations, which involves crafting a concrete negotiating text for the agreed outcome," said the conference President, Polish Environment Minister Maciej Nowicki. Meetings are planned for Bonn in June 2009, where parties agreed that a first draft of the text would be available. Apart from the seminal climate change conference in Copenhagen next year, the UNFCCC will also organized and additional three meetings.
Small successes were made in Poznan, such as the agreement that the Kyoto Protocol's Adaptation Fund would have legal capacity to grant developing countries direct access to about $60 million. The fund will be released next year, and expects to help the world's poorest and most vulnerable nations.
"I think this is a very important accomplishment, making the adaptation fund operational," said head of Indonesia's National Council for Climate Change secretariat, Agus Purnomo.
However in terms of the broader picture, many observers in Poznan have felt that the conference was a "major missed opportunity". Progress was obviously slow and others observed that the two-week talks brought little progress on the most contentious issues - cuts in emissions blamed for climate change.
"This was a moment in time when real leaders would have stepped up and taken the positions that would combat the economic and climate crisis at the same time," said Kim Carstensen, Leader of the WWF Global Climate Initiative. "Instead, industrialized countries preached sermons about the importance of climate protection in the Poznan plenary while lacking or attacking policies to make it happen at home -- a serious sign of climate hypocrisy."
Nonetheless, UN officials said the talks kept the world on the path toward a new treaty to be agreed in Copenhagen at the end of 2009 to roll back the threat of global warming.
“Governments have sent a strong political signal that despite the financial and economic crisis, significant funds can be mobilized for both mitigation and adaptation in developing countries with the help of a clever financial architecture and the institutions to deliver the financial support,” said Yvo de Boer, executive secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.
“We now have a much clearer sense of where we need to go in designing an outcome which will spell out the commitments of developed countries, the financial support required and the institutions that will deliver that support as part of the Copenhagen outcome,” he added.
And so now the waiting game begins for 2009, and what the year will bring for a global climate agreement. This time next year, will the world be rejoicing, or will it be the defining moment in time where we will be told we failed?